Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Raise a cuppa tea for January – It’s Hot Tea Month!

For centuries, folks around the world have enjoyed the ritual of drinking tea or coffee while chatting with their comrades or enjoying a quiet moment to themselves.

In the 15th century in Middle Eastern countries, coffeehouses served as social gathering places where men—and only men—would meet to drink coffee or tea and talk politics, listen to music, read books, or play chess and backgammon. Thanks to Mr. Twinnings, of Twinnings Tea fame, the “men only’ policy changed in 1717 when he converted his London coffeehouse to a teahouse and began admitting both genders. Several centuries later, coffeehouses could be found in countries around the world serving both coffee and tea to men AND women. Imagine that! In the US and Canada during the 1960’s, political activists held coffeehouses in church basements. Usually a sole singer/guitarist performed onstage while the steamy politics of the day were discussed among guests. The careers of folk singers like Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan were launched via these grassroots.

For your next tea party, whip up a batch of these svelte little morsels of delight. I used Sugar Plum Spice Tea but Earl Grey tea or any other favourite tea of yours would do, I’m sure!

Sugar Plum Spice Tea Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. finely ground Celestial Seasonings Sugar Plum Spice Herbal Tea leaves from about 4 tea bags (This is a Holiday Tea sold around at Christmas time and into January. It is sold at the Bulk Barn and grocery stores in the tea section)
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
½ c confectioners’ (icing) sugar
1 tbsp. finely grated orange zest (that’s orange rind)

Whisk together flour, tea and salt in a bowl.
Put butter, confectioner’s sugar and orange zest in a bowl and beat together with an electric mixture (or your own brute strength!).  Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Divide dough in half. Transfer each half to a piece of parchment paper; or lightly floured cutting board and shape into logs. Roll each log to 1 ¼ inch in diameter. Each log will be about 9 inches in length. Roll up each log in parchment paper and twist the paper ends-like a Christmas cracker. Freeze logs—just until firm, about 1 hr.

Preheat oven to 350F. With a sharp knife, cut logs into ¼ inch thick slices. Space about 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake cookies, rotating sheets at half-time, until edges are golden, about 13-15 minutes in total. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Store in airtight containers for up to five days. They freeze well and make lovely gifts. Gift idea: place cookies in a canister-style tin, wrap the tin in Christmas paper and place a bow on top…or place in small festive cookie tins. The great feature about these cookies is: they are so darned tasty, cute and svelte-like!

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